The Buzz: 'James Cameron’s Story Of Science Fiction' Is A Must Watch For Fans Of Sci-Fi

Part of the AMC Visionaries project, James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction is a documentary series which follows James Cameron as he interviews some of Sci-Fi’s greatest influencers. The series offers a wide variety of perspectives from science fiction actors, authors, screenwriters, directors and even film critics. Each episode of this six-part miniseries focuses on a different broad subject of sci-fi, with each episode then breaking said subject into smaller segments. The first episode aptly titled “Aliens” focuses on, as you might have guessed, aliens. “Aliens” is broken into six segments with each segment focusing on a different aspect of aliens in sci-fi and the TV shows, films and books that tie into that theme. For example, the first segment’s theme is benevolent aliens, so the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind is heavily discussed. The second segment focuses on alien invasions. Therefore, Independence Day and War of the Worlds is discussed.  

James Cameron is no stranger to science fiction as he has directed some of most famous sci-fi films ever made including The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Aliens, and Avatar. Two of Cameron’s films Avatar and Titanic are still some of the highest grossing films of all time. Clearly, James Cameron knows what he’s doing when it comes to making financially and critically successful films, but how does he perform as an interviewer? Well, for the most part Cameron is not in the episode all that much. He only appears about once or twice per segment when he interviews a director. There isn’t a whole lot of back and forth as the series runs through guests like it’s nobody’s business, but for the most part Cameron gets the job done. One small disappointing thing though, is that Cameron never really shares his own thoughts or opinions. This is especially odd since the fifth segment focuses quite a bit on his film Avatar, and this would seem like the perfect place for him to explain what inspired him to make the film. Instead all we get is other people talking about him secondhandedly. 

James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction is in no way short on guests and rarely stays on one person for more than a minute or two. This not only keeps the pace breezy, but also allows for a wide array of perspectives without losing the substance of the interviews. Despite there being times when I wish some interviews could have lingered a little longer, I understand that some of these interviews could easily have taken over the whole episode. One example would be the discussion Cameron had with George Lucas on how to make alien worlds feel genuine. It’s my hope that the DVD or Blu-ray release will include some of the boundless interviews that were likely cut or shortened for the sake of making an episode under an hour.

Besides conducting interviews with current creators, actors and artists in the industry, James Cameron’s Story Of Science Fiction also used some archival footage of deceased influencers such as HG Welles, Orson Welles and H.R. Griegor. It was nice to see that despite these people were gone; their impact remains strong. It’s great to appreciate people when they’re still around to enjoy it, but it’s also important to honor those who have come before us and helped paved the way. These archived clips were even presented in a sci-fi way as they appeared blue and static like as if they were from sort of future communication. It was a nice touch to distinguish them from current living influencers while also adding a science fiction touch that these revolutionary contributors would have been sure to have appreciated. 

The only criticism to really be had would be that the show favors films over other mediums of sci-fi such as books and TV. Given James Cameron’s background this makes sense, but to underscore the importance of books and TV would be a huge disservice when discussing how Science Fiction got where it is today. Although War of the Worlds was spotlighted during the second segment and Star Trek did get a quick mention, it would have be nice to see a little bit more time dedicated to these other mediums in future episodes. Other than that, there isn’t much else to critique or complain about as this episode did a masterful job of exploring aliens and the impact they’ve had in both social commentary and in entertainment.

In the end, if sci-fi is your thing, then you need to watch this series. However, if you don’t like sci-fi all that much, then you probably won’t enjoy it as much. This is the kind of series made for die-hard fans who can’t get enough of the final frontier and what the future holds. Additionally, fans of the art of filmmaking may also find some genuine entertainment value in this series as well as some possible inspiration. Honestly though, even if you’re not a huge fan of sci-fi or filmmaking, you should still give this a watch if anything discussed in this article piques your interest in the slightest. James Cameron once again proves he has the magic touch with this very interesting documentary as he pays homage to all those who have done so much for the world of science fiction. You can catch new episodes of James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction on Mondays at AMC. Other documentaries set to run under the AMC Visionaries brand include a horror and rap series, both of which are expected to air later this year in 2018.